By PONGPHON SARNSAMAK
A mining concession sought by the Asia Pacific Potash Corporation (APPC) is likely to face opposition from the Royal Thai Army, which says that the mining activities would encroach on a military base in Udon Thani and affect its underground weapons storag
“We will not allow any individual to conduct any activities on the ground or in underground areas inside the military base. It would affect base security,” said Colonel Sathaporn Boonchoo, chief of the Royal Thai Army Division 24’s Maintenance Support Unit.
He was speaking at a meeting held by the National Human Rights Commission, which had invited representatives from various agencies to provide more information about the potash-mining proposal.
The meeting, chaired by NHRC member Dr Nirand Pitakwatchara, came after Udon Thani residents filed a complaint citing community rights violations and lack of due process in APPC’s seeking permission for the mining concession.
Sathaporn said APPC told him it would pay compensation for the use of the military base.
About 803 rai of the Yutthasilpprasit military camp’s 13th Artillery Division would be affected by the mining.
“A military training centre, arsenal, bomb storehouse and underground storage are located in the area of these mining activities,” the colonel said. “We are afraid the mining will affect the weapons storehouse and base security.”
If the company wants to mine under the military base, it must first ask permission from the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army.
“We found that at no time had there been a request from the company seeking permission to mine under the military camp,” Sathaporn said.
According to the Primary Industries and Mines Department, APPC sought permission in 2004 to conduct a survey for potash under 26,000 rai of Udon Thani province encompassing in five sub-districts and two villages.
The company surveyed and drilled more than 160 holes. On November 25, 2011, the department and the provincial industrial office announced the company's request to seek a mining concession and asked for objections from members of the public.
Since then, the proposal has been opposed by locals and conservation groups.
They have asked the department to investigate the company’s process of measuring the land and say they have found irregularities.
However, the department’s senior official Chartchai Cherdcheun said it had asked the company to conduct an environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) and submit it to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning.
“The department will give a green light for this project if the company's EHIA report is approved by ONEP,” he said.